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Making Creativity Work for You

(Originally published on June 26,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

Renowned event designer Preston Bailey shares tips for those looking into a career in event design


By Irene V. Fernando

For someone who entered the industry of event designing by mistake, Preston Bailey must have done something right. Today, he is one of the favorite event stylists ofHollywood’s big names: Oprah, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Joan Rivers and Uma Thurman, among others. He has written best-selling books like “Design for Entertaining,” “Fantasy Weddings,” “Inspirations”, and his latest, “Celebrations” will be on the stands this September.

Bailey visited the country to discuss what makes an event design successful during Rita Neri Planners (RNEP)’s 18th year celebration in the event planning industry. The anniversary also showcased wedding table settings presented at the Upper Lobby of Peninsula Manila from May 29 to 30 by the country’s major wedding magazines.

A Career Out of Unemployment

Bailey left his hometown ofPanamaat the age of 19 and moved toNew York, where he started his career as a fashion model before opening a man’s clothing boutique. When his store closed down, he ventured into floral arrangements before finally meeting Joan Rivers, who asked him to design and produce her daughter Melissa’s wedding. Soon enough,Preston’s talent for event design became the talk of the town, with his works often referred to as art installations. He has been known to transform ordinary spaces into theatrical environments, much to his clients’ amazement.

With his profession relying heavily on creativity, one wonders if he has no problems dealing with the business side. “It’s not easy,” he says, “I have my own people. I design, get to know my clients. Once they talk about money, I let them talk to my Chief Financial Officer (CFO).”

Event Design as a Career

When asked what striving event designers should bear in mind in pursuing this profession, Bailey was quick to enumerate the following: “1) Develop your own look; 2) Learn how to charge your clients; 3) Do not give up; and 4) Continue growing.”

For one, Bailey loves an enormous first impression. He once designed elephants from lotus leaves and 10-foot lions from roses. His designs allow his clients’ fantasies to become jaw-dropping reality.

In charging clients, Bailey discussed in his blog the few ways to prevent being cash poor:

You must always keep in mind the three key things you’re selling to potential clients:

1. Your time. Time is money. Our time is our most valuable commodity.

2. Your ideas. As much as I want to get clients excited about what I can do for them, my ideas are my product. I know that I can’t give all of my ideas away in the very first meeting before they’ve made it clear they want to give me the job. Some potential clients expect personal design ideas right there in the first meeting, but the danger of this is that they could take that idea and hire someone else to do it.

3. Your materials. If you give a presentation to potential clients, you will be using your own cash to do so. Therefore, if a client insists on seeing any flowers or other design elements before hiring you, make sure you charge them for it.

And for those looking into starting their own business, Bailey also lists a few pointers on how to keep your business afloat:

1. Do your very best to build a financial nest egg. What does this mean exactly? It means having a savings account worth 30 percent of your annual income or as close to that as you can manage.

2. Every three months, sit down and evaluate your financial situation. Yes, I know, this is not fun, and it can be extremely hard to face the reality of your finances. But ignore them, and you’ll eventually be forced to face the consequences. Trust me, that hurts a lot more. Once you have a clear understanding of your current finances, make a projection. What jobs do you have? What jobs do you think you have a good chance of getting? Do you need to start increasing your sales efforts? Answer these questions honestly. Now is not the time to kid yourself. Use this newfound awareness to keep you grounded and help you make smart money decisions in the coming months.

3. When clients give you a deposit, never use that money for anything other than their project. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a game of stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

4. Be consistent with your profit margin. If you’re not making the proper profit, which is 50 percent, then you’ll mostly likely always be cash poor. You must learn to charge what you’re worth, because there are a lot of expenses and a lot of people you to need pay at the end of every job.

5. Don’t forget Uncle Sam! You work for yourself, which means no one is taking money out of your paycheck to cover taxes. You must set aside money for taxes in a separate account. Never, and I mean never, use this money for anything other than taxes.

While Bailey admits he does not live for dealing with money, he knows that he needs it and that he has learned that it is still part of his job of planning and designing to pay close attention to his finances. “Please learn from my mistakes,” he says, “be financially savvy, and you’ll get to keep doing what you love for decades to come.”

Lastly, Bailey encourages everyone to never stop learning. “I get to travel a lot that I learned a lot,” he shares, “I try to spend much time in the area, pay attention, (and) understand the culture. This way, you’ll also discover that every culture has different needs, and every client has varied tastes.”

To get more of Preston Bailey’s advice, visit

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Business Coach: The Four Things Every Manager Wants to Hear from Employees

(Originally published on June 26,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Ruben Anlacan Jr.

One of the most difficult problems a manager faces is not getting the truth about important matters. After all, one cannot make a good decision if he/she does not have an accurate picture of the situation. Unfortunately this is more the rule than the exception. This is a big problem among Filipinos, in particular, because most people fear offending their superiors or are just too shy to speak up.

What happens is that employees keep their silence or try to send signals in the hope that their managers will get the message. Unfortunately this approach tends to be a hit or miss. The busy manager may be too distracted to spot what you think are obvious hints. Using this tactic takes time, and by then it may be too late to change matters.

To discuss all the things managers need to hear from employees would take an entire book. Here are the things I consider the most common and vital.

1. Say what you want to do. Making your boss guess what you prefer to do is like expecting him/her to have ESP. Although the company is not paying you to do what you want to do, it is of mutual benefit if you are motivated to do the task. You may have certain abilities that your boss is not aware of. In discussing this, phrase it in a way that will show how you can better serve the company. After all, you will be able to do more if you like what you are doing.

2. Say what you dislike. This is not a problem when the task is obviously unpleasant and nobody would want to do it. In this case, your boss already knows that it is a sacrifice on your part. On the other hand, there are also functions people may think you like when in reality, reduce you to a nervous wreck or bores you to tears. Taking clients out may have been fun when you were younger, but if you already have a family, then too much of this may now be stressful especially if you have to stay out late at night. What was then a reward is now more of a punishment.

3. Disclose problems. This covers a lot of ground, from petty, easily resolvable problems to full-blown anomalies that threaten to bankrupt the company. This is the hardest thing to do. You may be branded as a bootlicker who wishes to please the boss to gain a personal advantage. In some situations, it may even cost you your life! It is difficult to make a categorical statement about this, because being a whistle blower is extremely dangerous and not everyone is cut out to be a hero. Just make sure you don’t get entangled with the culprits.

4. Ask for a raise before resigning. It so often happens that an employee enjoys his job and gets along fine with his boss, but despite all efforts he just cannot make ends meet with his current salary. However, he is afraid that asking for a raise will jeopardize his standing. Often an employee ends up dropping a bombshell with news of his resignation. This stuns the manager, who may be more than willing to give what the employee wants. There are, of course, times when the company’s salary structure prevents any further adjustment to wages, but do consider asking before resigning.

There are a limitless number of problems that may be nipped in the bud if only the employee had the courage to discuss the matter with the boss. However, there are still risks in being candid. A more subtle approach may be tried at first. But if your clues are still not picked up by your boss, it is usually best to state the matter directly. Remember: fortune favors the brave!

Business and management consultant Ruben Anlacan, Jr. is the president of  BusinessCoach, Inc. and a resource speaker for various business topics. He discusses overviews and tips for business from the point of view of a small- or medium-scale entrepreneur who has started several successful enterprises. Those who wish to ask questions or to make comments may visit or e-mail

 (All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Jumpstart Your Career with BBM

(Originally published on June 22,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

For fresh graduates, your first job establishes your initial credentials as a worker. You find out in your first job your strengths and weaknesses, what you can further improve, and if your chosen industry is really the one for you. If you make good at it, it will help open up other opportunities.

For BlackBerry users who are just starting out, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) can be one of their most important allies.

Here are some tips in using BBM to be more productive and get ahead at work.

• Expand your BBM network. If you are meeting a fellow BlackBerry user, you can add him or her as a BBM contact to stay in touch. You can easily add new contacts by requesting for the other person’s PIN, e-mail address, or simply scanning the QR barcode that is unique to their device.

• Carry on conversations with your colleagues wherever you are, in real time. Even if you are out on the road or away on a business trip, BBM allows you to keep tabs at the office. The unique status feature of BBM allows you to see when a message has been delivered and read. You can also see when your colleagues are replying or writing a new message. As a way of keeping minutes, you can use the “copy chat” or “e-mail chat” features to keep a record of a conversation for follow up.

• Work on projects with your team, even when apart. You can interact with a group of colleagues all at the same time as if you were together by creating groups on BBM. BBM groups allow you to chat with your colleagues, and share pictures, task lists, and appointments. You can create lists that include information such as due dates,  priority level, status, and even assign tasks to members in the group. It’s an effective way to help everyone stay focus and on track.

• Share photos, videos, and voice notes. Spot an interesting ad or product that inspire a new idea? Capture it using your BlackBerry smartphone and share it with your fellow colleagues over BBM right away. Another great thing about BBM is that unlike SMS, BBM messages travel as data so regardless of the number of BBM messages sent back and forth, it will not give you or your company’s finance department a heart attack. It is an economical and secure real-time smartphone messaging solution for the young professionals who want to get a head start in their careers.

BBM is available across different BlackBerry data plans of the telco providers. You can inquire with your carrier for more informationor visit

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Healthcare Options

(Originally published on June 19,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

In my last article, I talked about medical crisis and how you can take charge of your health and cushion yourself from exorbitant medical bills in case you get sick and hospitalized. (To read the article, you may check out my blog at

This time, I’d like to discuss the healthcare plans and types available in the Philippines since shopping for a health card can get overwhelming and confusing. Here are some of the healthcare programs that are being offered in the market. I find that each type of plan has strong and weak points and choosing your plan will all depend on your budget and preference.

SSS and Philhealth

If there are items in my pay slip that I’m more than willing to get deductions for, these would be at the top of my list. SSS provides maternity benefits, sick benefits and even a small pension as long as you pass their requirements. I personally have had the privilege of using my maternity benefit this year and it was a big help. Philhealth also provides you a sizable discount off your hospital bills so it made my hospital stay more affordable.

Both the employer and employee are legally required to give shared contributions for these funds. Your HR or Accounting Department will process payment for you so it’s pretty easy to join and maintain membership. Be sure to go and get your SSS and Philhealth ID so that you can avail of the benefits. It is also prudent to check if your company is indeed remitting your payments to these agencies. There are a few irresponsible companies out there who deduct SSS and Philhealth contributions from their employees’ pay slips but fail to remit them to the right agencies.

Although our SSS and Philhealth benefits will help us during a medical crisis, more often than not, they are not enough. So to protect themselves, employers and individuals enroll in extra healthcare programs that are offered by insurance companies. There are various healthcare plans and types out there and if you are seriously interested in getting a health plan for you, your family or employees, be sure to research and do due diligence.

HMO – Health Maintenance Organization

When you become a policy-holder of an HMO, you get access to their network which consists of hundreds of doctors, clinics and hospitals. You also can avail of the network’s medical services with no cash outlay. This means that when you go visit an accredited doctor or get hospitalized, all you have to do is present your card and follow procedures, but you won’t have to spend as long as costs are within you maximum benefit. This type of plan usually covers in-patient and out-patient services. Dental services and personal accident insurance are optional.

Medical Insurance

Not all doctors are created equal. Some are really just better. If you are like me who take time and great effort to find great doctors with experience and good bedside manners, then you may want to get a healthcare plan that allows you to choose your own doctor. Most Medical Insurance Plans allow this, but they are usually reimbursement type. This means that you will still have to put up the money to pay your doctor, but you can reimburse from the insurance company later on as long as you follow their process and requirements. Some Medical Insurance companies offer flexibility and let you choose coverage. You can go with basic in-patient and you can just add on outpatient, dental and others. There are even plans that let you add on an HMO component which offers access to their medical services network without cash outlay.

HMO with Pension

There are also some companies who offer combination plans wherein you pay premiums for several years with a locked-in arrangement. You get access to their network of doctors, clinics and hospitals with no cash outlay. Then after a certain number of years, you get a portion of your money back. The money back feature is an attractive offer, but rates are a little bit higher initially. It’s worth a look if you have extra cash to spare.

Hospital Confinement Insurance

If you get hospitalized, you are faced with many issues. Aside from the medical bills you have to pay, you also will lose the opportunity to earn income. The purpose of this type of insurance is to give you an allowance during your period of hospital confinement. It is supposed to supplement you income loss. Some plans offer money back guarantee while other’s don’t.

There are many other types of Insurance that will suit your needs.

These are just some of them. If you want to invest in healthcare insurance plans, be sure to research, investigate and ask other plan-holders. Read the policy very well. Ask about preexisting conditions (if you don’t know what this means, ask the agent to explain as this is a crucial point). Know and understand the benefits and limitations of your plan before you plunk your hard-earned money on it. The last thing you want when you are in a medical crisis is to be denied coverage. So read and ask a lot of questions.

I hope this article has shed a little light on important features of healthcare plans. If you are a jobseeker, don’t just look at how much salary you will get, but check if the company provides healthcare benefits. If your company offers healthcare, be very grateful. If they don’t, consider getting a plan for yourself or your family.

We all work really hard to earn and save money. A single disease can easily wipe us out. So take charge of your health and finances while you are still healthy.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Business Coach: On Dealing with Difficult Customers

(Originally published on June 19,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Ruben Anlacan Jr.

It has always been our belief that the customer is always right. But there are some customers who are just really difficult to deal with. They are the type who would rob you  of your patience, not to mention your sanity. Some would even go as far as treat you like trash—that is, if you let them.

While the objective of any business is to attract clients and treat them well, there are some who take advantage of customer service and push you to wits’ end. As purchasers, some customers believe they are gods and treat sellers as followers ready to do their bidding. There may be times when you wish these people do not exist, but the fact is that you have to learn to deal with them.

There are different types of customers, and you may already have encountered some of them:

• A client asking you several times for a meeting, only to learn of the cancellation when you are already in the venue.

• A client promising to give you orders, but only if you give high rebates. This is the only way you I can get the contract, but you feel guilty of entering into a ridiculously priced deal.

• A client you have been prospecting for six months now, but who still doesn’t know your name or your company’s. This clearly shows a lack of interest.

• A client asking for quotations for over a year, and yet a sale remains elusive.

• A client requesting illicit deals or trades, such as giving you the contract in exchange for sex.

• A client asking for personal favors, like asking to be driven home, be given gadgets, or asking you to pay for his/her trips abroad.

• A client who does not know what he/she wants, changing the specifications of a project everyday and you are already having difficulty in keeping up with the modifications.

• A client who is always complaining that you did not do the project as specified, and always threatening to replace you with a more efficient supplier.

There are other examples to add to this list. The fact is that there will always be clients who are more difficult to handle than others. But if you become choosy with accepting

clients, you could also end up having no customers at all. The general rule here is to learn how to deal with your difficult clients. The market is a jungle; and if you don’t know the kind of beast you have to work with, your business’ survival might end up moot.

Here are some tips on dealing with difficult customers:

• List your clients, and write your experience with each of them. Make plans on how you react the next time you transact with them.

• Always have a contract of agreement signed. This way, whenever a client complains, you can show him/her that the project was done as specified. This would also serve as a guide to ensure that procedures or protocols were followed in the completion of the project.

• Dress professionally and conservatively. You would get fewer indecent proposals if you present yourself as smart and respectable.

• Learn when to say “No”. If you believe you cannot meet the deadline, say so. If you think you can’t stomach what is being asked of you, politely decline the offer.

You cannot really get away with working with hard-to-manage customers. But come to think of it, some of your difficult clients are probably the ones helping you strive to be more competitive. Listen to what they have to say, as they can also give you valuable inputs to improve your business.

In my experience, many of the previously intolerable clients have turned out to be very pleasant persons once we have broken the ice. Their intimidating demeanor was just a facade to gain negotiating leverage.

Remember that if you develop the knack for dealing with difficult customers, you already have the advantage of winning over your competitors who cannot handlethem. Check mate!

Business and management consultant Ruben Anlacan, Jr. is the president of  BusinessCoach, Inc. and a resource speaker for various business topics. He discusses overviews and tips for business from the point of view of a small- or medium-scale entrepreneur who has started several successful enterprises. Those who wish to ask questions or to make comments may visit or e-mail

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Dealing With a Medical Crisis

(Originally published on June 15,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

Illness can be devastating to the hardworking person. Medical bills can wipe out entire savings. If a disease is contagious or debilitating, you will be asked to stop working for a while, which means loss of income for a critical period in time. As the breadwinner of your family, imagine how much this will impact those who depend on you.

Let me share with you the experience of one reader, Kevin, and the issues he faced during his period of illness:

I was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. At first my company allowed me to take a break for a few weeks to recover, but when I got hospitalized it was discovered that I also contracted tuberculosis. My medical bills reached R95,000 and I did not have enough money to pay the hospital so I asked my employer for support. They provided financial aid as well as a salary loan, but it wasn’t enough to cover my hospital expenses. Our HR manager then suggested that we go for termination due to prolonged illness with an option to reapply to the company when I get better. She said this way, I can get a separation pay. I agreed to this, but now they are asking me to submit a medical report, as well as sign a quit claim before they release the money. I am under a lot of stress and can’t help but feel paranoid with all the paperwork they are letting me sign. Is this really necessary?

Honestly, I feel very depressed. I have spent years working hard to save up, but I’ll have to spend it all to pay for my medical bills. It’s so unfair. I’m sick, I can’t work, and I don’t have money. How can hardworking people like me move up in life? What can I do to improve my situation?

My response:

I am sorry to hear about your illness and I sincerely hope that you get well soon. It is normal to feel emotional distress when physically ill, especially with the pressure of being faced with a steep medical bill. But do know that this, too, will pass. Just hang in there.

Based on your letter I think your company is pretty decent, as they have provided you with medical assistance and a salary loan. They are also willing to give you separation pay as well as give you a job when you get better, so you can at least get some relief and not worry about job opportunities while you are recovering.

The paperwork is necessary. Legally, if a company is terminating an employee due to prolonged illness, a medical report must be submitted and this must be issued by a duly authorized public health officer. It is also prudent for companies to document all things related to termination. Efficient HR practitioners will normally ask you to sign a salary release, clearance, and quit claim form. So just read the documents properly and sign if everything is in order.

As an optimistic person, I don’t really enjoy talking about sickness, disability or even death. But I know that Illness can strike anyone regardless of race, educational attainment and economic status. So for my peace of mind, I’ve chosen to face these issues head on and find ways to protect my family and I from crisis. I urge everyone to do the same.

To protect yourself and your family from illness-related disasters, and to cushion the financial blow that comes with it, take the time and effort to do the following:

1. Invest in health. In the movie “Tanging Ina,” Ai Ai de las Alas says: “Ang batang masipag, paglaki…pagod (A kid who works hard, grows up…tired).” People who work hard do just that—work hard. In the midst of all the hard work, they forget to eat properly, rest well and exercise. They end up working hard for money, and then they get sick and lose their hard-earned money. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

The best way to prevent illness-related blows is to stay healthy. Eat when you have to eat. Take a break when you need to rest. Wash your hands often to avoid bacteria and viruses. If you get sick, stay home until you get better. Don’t ever act the martyr by forcing yourself to go to work when you are seriously ill, or worse, contagious. Other people might catch what you have and they will not be happy about it. Learn to work smarter, not harder. You will become healthier and happier in the long run.

2. Invest in affordable health insurance. Honestly today’s rising medical costs will give anyone a heart attack. Depending on the illness and treatment required, bills can run from thousands to millions. Your SSS and Philhealth membership will help a bit, so make sure your contributions are up to date. If your company provides healthcare or HMO, then good for you. It will help pay for hospitalization in case you get confined. But if your company does not provide this benefit, you can proactively research and look for an affordable plan for you and your family (or even get free healthcare, if you’re a Makati resident with that magic yellow card).

See, companies are not required by law to give healthcare benefits aside from SSS and Philhealth. They are not legally bound to cover your medical costs. Employers will pay you for your day’s work. They are responsible for providing good working conditions, but they are not accountable for your health. In other words, you are ultimately responsible for taking care of yourself.

It isn’t just about working hard anymore. More importantly, it’s about living smart. Take care of your health and finances now, because nobody else will do it for you.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:


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